A love for pugs and an equal love for her school led Barton Middle School teacher Alisha Homann, along with others, to give an injured pup a specialized wheelchair and a new lease on life.
Homann said the pursuit began in November 2016 when her mother, Debbie Homann, fostered Polly through the Pug Rescue of Austin. Polly had been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, which caused limitations in her hind legs.
Homann said Polly can walk on her own but increasingly needs assistance and can’t run.
Debbie and Alisha Homann, who have been volunteers with Pug Rescue of Austin for two years, said there was no hesitation on their part when agreeing to foster Polly, even with her disability.
“We don’t get a lot of history when we agree to foster a dog, but we wanted to give her the love and attention she deserves,” Homann said.
Inspired by the special needs Polly has, Alisha Homann turned to students at Barton Middle School’s “Genius Hour” to find a way to help Polly walk on her own. Genius Hour is where students have a chance to solve problems by trial and error, Homann said.
After consulting with Chris Glenn, Barton’s Gateway to Technology (GTT) teacher, Homann and Glenn identified two seventh graders who were up to the challenge of building wheels for Polly.
“He said, ‘Let’s do it, let’s roll with it,’” Alisha Homann said when she approached Glenn with the project.
Glenn enlisted the creative talents of Barton student Ella Davis to help him build a mobile wheelchair for Polly that could help her lead a more normal dog life. The group also had the assistance of student Chris Janacek, who helped until he left the school district in February.
Polly has had a couple of fittings with Davis and Glenn, who took measurements and made adjustments to the wheelchair apparatus.
Alisha Homann said Polly showed no fear when she was first introduced to the chair almost six weeks ago.
“She got right in there,” Alisha Homann said, “Once she knew she could take off, she took off.”
Alisha Homan described Polly as “feeling free” when strapped in her chair, even walking an impressive 35 feet during her first fitting.
“She was so excited, her face lit up because she was so happy to be able to walk without assistance,” she said.
Homann said her mother loves Polly very much, but has not yet decided to make the full commitment of adopting Polly.
Polly does have special needs that include management needs and incontinence issues.
Homann said that no matter if Polly has found her forever home, she will be loved and adored by everyone involved with her story.
Homann said even her sixth-graders have become invested in Polly’s progress, seeing videos of Polly during fittings in the chair.
“We are so excited about the wheelchair for Polly,” Alisha Homann said, “Polly is very excited too.”
For more information on Pug Rescue of Austin or for information on how to volunteer, adopt or foster a pug, contact Pug Rescue of Austin at www.austinpugrescue.com.